Monday, July 05, 2010

Sixth Sunday in Trinity: Exodus III

Opening Prayer: Our Father, we thank you that you have called us each by name. And that you have placed Your name upon us, and that when we gather here in Your name, You speak to us. And so we ask that you would give us ears to hear. Help us to repent of thinking we already know what you’re going to say. And give us grace to believe and obey, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!

We said last week that God calls us to know Him so that we might walk and talk with Him as sons. But too frequently we are reluctant to take up this calling. How do we know what God wants? Who are we to think that we know what’s best? But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that God chooses the weak things of this world to undo the strong and the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.

The Burning Bush
In Acts 7 we are told by Stephen that Moses was 40 years old when he fled from Egypt, and that he was in Midian for 40 years before returning to Egypt (Acts 7:23, 30). As he is leading the flocks by Horeb (Mt. Sinai), he sees the Angel of Yahweh in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush (3:1-2). The wonder according to the text is that this bush is not being consumed by the fire. This is not merely a bazaar gimmick to get Moses off the path so that God can get his attention (although it works!) (3:3-4). It is also a vision of sorts meant to image what God is going to speak to Moses about. The bush is Israel in the crucible of Egypt, burned but not consumed (cf. Dt. 4:20). The place where Moses is standing is “holy ground” (3:5). The point of course is God’s presence, but more so, this is a reversal of the curse of the ground (Gen. 3:17). This same reality was later pictured in the Tabernacle and Temple where great attention is paid to the rest of the priests’ uniform, suggesting that the priests were barefoot. But this points forward to the full and final restoration of creation and the reversal of the curse of sin and death.

The Promise of God
God identifies Himself as the covenant God of Israel, the God of Moses’ father (3:6). God has heard the cries of his people in Egypt (3:7), and He intends not only to deliver them out of bondage but to also bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey (3:8). This is how God always works: His deliverance is always out of death, slavery, cursing into life, freedom, and blessing. The language of a land “flowing” with milk and honey would have reminded Israel of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10-14). But this is an Eden glorified. This is also the way God always works; we are called to a life of continual conversion, continual repentance. Nor is He content with the status quo or merely what was good back then. He always strives for better. God hears the cries of his people, but it should be pointed out that this is exactly what God had promised 400 years ago to Abraham (3:8-9, cf. Gen. 15:13-14ff). God calls Moses to go to Pharaoh to bring His people out of Egypt, but when Moses questions this plan, God gives Moses a sign, the promise that he will return and “serve God on this mountain” (3:10-12). The sign is a promise. This is a reminder that we are never called to obedience apart from faith.

The Name of God
Moses asks God what name he should give to the people if they ask who has sent him (3:13). And God says, “I AM WHO I AM.” He goes on to command Moses to also tell them that “the LORD God of your fathers… has sent me to you” (3:14-15). The all-caps LORD in our Bibles is the name “Yahweh” which is something like the third person form of “I AM,” something like “HE IS.” But the name is tied to the fathers also: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are referenced three times in this passage (3:6, 15, 16). This is nearly God’s name. His name is not merely a title or position. His name is what he has done. His trustworthiness is bound up in who He has been God to. God’s name is bound up with the names of particular individual people. God’s name is bound up with us. This is how we know that God can be trusted: he has staked his reputation on us (cf. Mt. 28:19).

Conclusions & Application
The passage closes with God’s promise that Moses will be accepted by his brethren, but will be rejected by the king of Egypt (3:16-18). They are to go and ask permission to sacrifice to Yahweh, three days’ journey into the wilderness (presumably at Horeb/Sinai), and yet God promises that the king will not allow them to until after God has done “all the wonders” that He will do (3:19-20). Then they will go out with articles of gold and silver and clothing, plundered notice, by women (3:21-22).

We have to realize that Egypt was the greatest civilization the world over at this time. Not only was it a phenomenal feat to attempt the freedom of this enslaved people, it was seemingly a great folly to think that Egypt would be plundered by women. God is not worried about armies, popularity, science, or foolish laws made by men. He does not care about the polls. God has determined that the nations of this world are to be the inheritance of Jesus Christ. Just as God set Jeremiah over the nations of the world, he has set Christ, the great Jeremiah over this world (cf. Jer. 1:10).

So who are you? The answer to Moses’ question (3:11) was bound up with who was with him (3:12). You are God’s people, and therefore you may not doubt or worry about your lives or the state of this world. God threw down the greatest civilization on earth at the time through the feeble efforts of an old man with a walking-stick. Likewise, simple acts of obedience may look like foolishness. Husbands leading their families and loving their wives; wives submitting to their own husbands and rejoicing in their children; children obeying their parents and despising the treasures of this world; eating meals with gladness, serving the poor, loving our neighbors, blessing our enemies – all for the love of Christ: All of these look like acts of weakness and folly. But what are we doing? Toppling kingdoms and freeing slaves.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty God, God of our Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we declare that you are the Creator and Ruler of All. No one can stop your hand; no kingdom or nation is invincible to your will and rule. We know and believe that you have given this world to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he will rule until every enemy submits, until all the earth is filled with your glory. Give us grace to live in this grace. Through Jesus our Lord and Master, who taught us to pray, singing…

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